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By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 27th January 2015 at 4:00 pm
You remember Tom Williams: he helmed indie folk favourites Tom Williams and the Boat, who just released their third LP ‘Easy Fantastic’ on Moshi Moshi Records to critical fanfare last year. As a bit of a breather for himself, as well as what I can imagine is him stretching his artistic wings, Williams will be releasing a mini-album later this year, featuring acoustic tunes he wrote during down time in the workings-on of the last Boat album. The 7-track mini-album will be released on Williams’ own Wire Boat Recordings label and can be pre-ordered along with a host of exclusive offers via his PledgeMusic campaign’s Web site.
The first song to be unveiled from the new project is called ‘New Guitar’, an engaging tune that tells how the fateful purchase of a new musical instrument can play a role in the start of a new life. He’s also chosen to share with us a live video of him performing this new song, filmed where he found said guitar, at Replay Acoustics in Sevenoaks, Kent. Watch below as Williams looks completely in his element, surrounded by a bevy of Replay’s lovely acoustics.
Tonight, Alvvays return to Newcastle after a triumphant first gig in the city in 2014 supporting Real Estate, where they impressed as much, if not more, as the headliners. But can they handle the pressure of drawing a crowd under their own steam? That most of the tour sold well in advance, the evidence suggests yes. This is how they did it.
First up are Moon King, a Toronto spacey-pop four-piece, based around the complimentary boy-girl vocals of Maddy Wilde and Daniel Benjamin, who, due to Benjamin’s boyish voice, both sing in the same register. He acknowledges that as a reasonably obscure Canadian outfit, the crowd are unlikely to know any of their tunes, which is largely true, but the songs themselves have enough drive and melody to warm up the crowd. Their approach is casual, ramshackle at times – everyone knows the guitar is going out of tune, but they don’t care to tweak it, presumably thinking that it adds to the ‘ambient’ nature of the sound.
Which, to be fair, it does. Benjamin is clad in baggy black pants and t-shirt, teamed with black work boots that are literally falling apart at the seams. Even though at times he seems directionless, moping about the stage, at others he throws some genuine frontman shapes with the mic stand. An intriguing combination of attributes. Moon King trade in slackerism then, with the obligatory climax of hectic guitar and synth sweeps, and it all works nicely as an introduction to the headliners.
Where Moon King are relaxed, Alvvays are (up)tight. Their foundation is Phil MacIsaac’s Ringo Starr-esque drumming: tik-tik-tiki-tik goes his hi-hat, as precise as a metronome, and, on first hearing, as imaginative as a stone. But as one listens deeper, there comes a realisation that, even though Alvvays’ sound is made up of modest contributions – for instance, lead singer Molly Rankin’s guitar is just a thin, fuzzed noise throughout – all the pieces fit into a neat whole that is rather impressive indeed. The only part that isn’t modest is Rankin’s voice; her slight frame and blonde bob are the visual focal point, and her voice similarly dominates the sound.
The crowd liven up considerably when ‘Archie, Marry Me’ unveils its modestly strummed intro chords. And rightly so, for it’s a clever observational ditty, accurately describing the confused interregnum between college and commitment. Blessed with a killer chorus, which alvvays helps. They play the whole album, plus the hazy, surrealist ‘Archie’ B-side ‘Underneath Us’, and a freshly-minted number that continues in the same vein (‘Your Type’). Mention should go to Alec O’Hanley’s guitar work: he treads a clever line between playing in deference to the song, and really breaking out the distortion and feedback that every lead guitarist secretly yearns to show off. By the time the set climaxes with the melancholia of ‘Party Police’, both band and audience are warmed up sufficiently to treat its yearning vocal line with the rapture it deserves.
The surname of each member of Alvvays is, at least superficially, Celtic – Rankin, MacLellan, O’Hanley, Murphy, MacIsaac – which makes more sense of O’Hanley’s comment that on this night on their tour they’re closer to home than they’ve been for a while, which puts their ostensibly Canadian sound into some sort of context. Is there, instinctively buried inside their DNA, the code to generate some Scots arch-pop? They certainly share more familial attributes with Camera Obscura than Bryan Adams. And in their combining their Celtic-pop influences with heavily-reverbed, shoegazy guitar and lo-fi synth washes, they’ve come up with something rather lovely indeed.
Alvvays will be appearing at SXSW 2015, and you can read Carrie’s preview of their showcasing in Austin here. Their current tour in the UK finishes up in Bristol this Saturday; details of this tour are this way.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 20th January 2015 at 4:00 pm
Anticipation is building for Kodaline‘s sophomore album ‘Coming Up for Air’, which will drop in the first half of February 2015. The first taster revealed from the album was single ‘Honest’, which premiered in early December; you can read my single review, as well as watch the live action lyric and official videos for it.
Now they’ve unveiled a second track, which is quite a beauty. This live version of ‘Ready’, played acoustically, was recorded and filmed at Ocean Way Recording in Los Angeles, where the boys found themselves committing the new record to tape. Some fans complained that ‘Honest’ sounded too pop; one thing that has safely made it through to the other side on this new LP is Kodaline’s timeless harmonies, which are on full show in this live video. Watch it below.
Kodaline’s second album, the follow-up to 2013’s ‘In a Perfect World’, will be released on the 9th of February on RCA Victor. We’ve written quite a bit about the band, you can check out pretty extensive archive of writings on them here.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 16th January 2015 at 4:00 pm
For the soundtrack to the Reese Witherspoon film drama Wild released last autumn First Aid Kit recorded a breathtaking cover of R.E.M.’s ‘Walk Unafraid’. While we knew that they sisters Soderberg filmed a promo video for their version of the song, we didn’t know that during the down time of the making of the video, someone had the good idea to film this live acoustic performance of the sisters singing the song while R.E.M.’s own Peter Buck played backing guitar. You can watch both the live performance and the forest atmospheric promo video for the song below.
TGTF’s past coverage on First Aid Kit is here.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 23rd December 2014 at 4:00 pm
As a Christmas gift to their fans, Muse have revealed this rare performance of their ‘Origins of Symmetry’ bonus track ‘Futurism’, played at a show in August 2013 at Zepp in Tokyo, Japan. Up to this point, it had been some 10 years since it last had a public airing. It was announced previously that the entire gig at Zepp had been filmed, so Musers can expect a live DVD sometime in the future. For now though, watch the spectacle that is Muse live below. You can also download the performance video from this handy link as well.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 23rd December 2014 at 11:00 am
2014, 2014, tsk tsk tsk. When it came to live shows, you put in some tense situations where I couldn’t understand the lead singer in his normal speaking voice (Glasvegas at DC’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel in February), feared for my life because the heat was proving a bit too much (Slow Club at Sheffield Great Gatsby in May), got grossed out by other punters’ grinding (Glass Animals at DC’s U Street Music Hall in July), and needed to take a train to another town and back, all in one evening (Fatherson at Edinburgh Potterow in October). But it was in good fun, as you were always entertaining. Here are my top 5 live experiences this year:
5. The Dig at Black Cat Backstage (4th December 2014) – watching a band you’ve come to know and love evolve over time, and who just keep getting better and better, is probably one of the greatest blessings given to a music editor. The Dig, who I saw support Editors 4 years ago, are one of those bands. December gigs are hard to pull off in Washington – people are lazy to come out once the weather turns cold – but they came out in droves for this show Thursday night the first week in December for the New Yorkers. They’re ready for their close-up, folks.
Reminisce through TGTF’s back catalogue on the Dig through this link.
4. Glass Animals at Glasgow CCA (17th October 2014) – after you’ve seen a band many times, the gigs all start to blur together, especially you’re seeing them when they’ve only got their one debut album to promote. Glass Animals shows are always interesting, if only to view the wildlife on display in the audience, but the Oxford band were in fine form even on the last UK date on their tour in October. I was expecting them to be completely beat, after returning the week before from a whirlwind North American campaign and subsisting on far too little sleep. Perhaps it was the party atmosphere in Glasgow on a Friday night, the CCA stuffed to the gills with punters, that turned this gig up to 11? Vibes, man. Vibes.
Glass Animals have been a favourite at TGTF since last year, and you can read all of our coverage on them here.
3. Fenech-Soler at Brooklyn Glasslands (5th April 2014) – good things come to those who wait. Or so the saying goes. Even though I had to trek up to New York for this one, Fenech-Soler was definitely worth it for me to finally hear songs from both their debut album in 2010 and 2013’s ‘Rituals’. I haven’t danced that hard in ages. (Meeting Ben and Ross Duffy and getting to chat with them for this interview was definitely a personal highlight of 2014 as well.) I waited 4 long years to see electro-pop band Fenech-Soler to do a proper show in the States, and since I saw them at this show (at a venue that sadly will no longer exist in 2015, sob), they’ve done a couple tours in our country, and I couldn’t be happier for them.
Our pretty comprehensive archive on Fenech-Soler here at TGTF is this way.
2. Maximo Park at Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel (20th May 2014) – like Fenech-Soler, Maximo Park was a band I had missed seeing, and for even longer (beyond 6 years). It had nothing to do with them never coming to DC; I was either not here when they’d come or the show I’d had tickets to see them at had been cancelled. If you’ve never seen Paul Smith and co. perform, wow, you need to do yourself a favour and rectify that ASAP. I came to appreciate their latest album ‘Too Much Information’ much more after seeing it performed. Also, you always know the band you’ve come to see play is pulling out all the stops when the set list spills out over 2 pages. I’m looking forward to the next time they return to Washington. And to those asking, yes, Paul Smith really does give those reinforced trousers a workout.
Check out our writings on TGTF on the Geordie band here.
1. Royal Blood at DC9 (20th July 2014) – this gig can be best summed up with one word: PHWOAR. Perhaps my only prior experience with Mike Thatcher and Ben Kerr – Thursday at SXSW 2014, playing Lammo’s BBC Introducing night – didn’t sit well in my head because there is always too much background noise from other acts in Austin to really concentrate and appreciate on just one. At their first, and I might add rammed, headline show in DC, eyes and ears all glued on them with good reason. As those who waited for them to play at the John Peel stage at Glasto this year know, this duo from Brighton pack a massive punch in their successful effort to bring hard rock back. Best new British guitar band? Forget it. Best new British guitar duo’s where it’s at.
All of TGTF’s coverage on Royal Blood is right this way.
After the cut: the full list of all the gigs, in reverse chronological order, that I’ve been to in 2014. The runner-up gigs are also marked.
Continue reading Top Gigs of 2014: Editor’s Picks
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